Aboriginal Artifacts – Andamooka Waterhole – Outback South Australia
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Aboriginal Artifacts – Andamooka Waterhole – Outback South Australia

Well, today I went wandering on the nearby sand dune and found evidence of a once florishing Aboriginal community. I’d only just climbed the low dune when I came upon a midden with small bone fragments. Scattered about the midden were stone flakes with the typical characteristics of Aboriginal stone flakes, the result of making stone tools.

Tiny stone flakes, half the size of your little finger nail, to large pieces the size of a matchbox and bigger.

The midden was only a few metres across but the field of stone flakes spread over an area of maybe 100 metres by 200 metres.

In this area of rocks and stones, up on the sand dune where they wouldn’t have got by themselves, were rocks from the flats below. Many were the usual flat rocks of the gibber plain, while there were water washed, rounded stones, apparently from a creek bed. Funny thing though, I don’t see many, if any, rounded stones in the creek beds around here, just flat and square cut stones.

It’s pretty hard, using words, to describe random shapes, so you’ll just have to look at the photos.

Similarly, it’s near on impossable to describe colour with words. There were stone flakes that struck me as beautiful in form, texture and colour. Not common was the dark chocolate variety. Obviously very hard, fine grained stone with an attractive colour and a surface that shon in the sunlight, the many faccets showing off the work of an ancient craftsman.

There were other stone flakes that were kind of ambre in colour and almost clear where they were thin, when held up to the light.

Then there were the blue/grey and green/grey stones, some finer grained than others.

There were uellowish and greenish stone flakes and others of attractive browns with still others of mottled colour.

As I wandered around, stooping to pick up and examine stone flakes every couple of paces, I was lucky enough to find several host stones, the stones from which the flakes had been fragmented. Most of these discarded host stones seemed to be of inferior quality, coarser grained, but a few smaller stones looked to my untrained eye to be good quality stone.

So I wondered about the story the stone flakes and midden hide and to some extent tell.

Do they date back to the time when Australia’s inland was much wetter than today, to the time inland Australia was sub tropical?

Willaroo Lagoon is a dry, salt lake about three kilometres long by two kilometres wide and a couple of kilometres from Andamooka Waterhole and the sand dune where I’m camped. Willaroo Lagoon is seperated from the creek that holds Andamooka Waterhole by a long sand dune. I can imagine that in ancient times, this creek and Willaroo Lagoon were joined. With greater rainfall, Willaroo Lagoon may have been quite a waterhole and maybe fresh. Looking at the lie of the land, Willaroo Lagoon could easily have been eight or ten kilometres long and six or eight kilometres wide and six or eight metres deep. It could have even have been a part of a flourishing Lake Torrens which is only maybe ten kilometres distant and which recieves the water fron Andamooka Waterhole in flood time.

So to my mind, it’s possable there was a thriving Aboriginal community in the area, in the distant past, living well on the abundance of the inland sea the early European explorers vainly searched for, who camped in this and many other sand dunes of what we now know as the arid region.

If this is anywhere near true, you’d have to say the Aboriginal race was a victim of climate change. You’d also have to say that by adaptation, the Aboriginees survived climate change.

Going back to the stone flakes: I’d have dearly loved to take a few handfulls of the stone flakes home and tumble them, bringing their fine grain and hard structure out to a brilliant shine. But alas, they belong to the Aborigines, their ancestors worked with the stone flakes and left them there on the sand dune at their former camp. It’s their prorogative to have them left lie where they fell.

I don’t know if the stone flakes are from local stone or whether the host stones were carried and traded by visiting tribesman. But you can be sure that I’m keeping my eyes open for stones that break with a fine grained appearance! I’d take a couple of natural stones that I found myself home, that’s for sure!

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Posted in Outback on May 30th, 2011 by Laurie   

10 Responses

  1. Alan
    May 30th, 2011 | 5:54 pm

    Fascinating – what a privilege


  2. Caricature King
    May 30th, 2011 | 7:41 pm

    I hope you put those things back EXACTLY where you found them or you will be in trouble. I have just about convinced Ashesh to go with you on your next trip. Thought you might want someone to push you out of bogs and cook meals. Trouble is you’s probably have to teach him the first and most definitely the second task…this is the frying pan handle – this is where you hold it. Poor bloke would be lost without his keyboard. Maybe he could be your chronicler and you could to the cooking…

  3. June 1st, 2011 | 7:45 pm

    Maybe you’d both like to come! You have a 4×4, don’t you Matt?

  4. June 1st, 2011 | 7:52 pm

    Thanks Alan.

    Yes, indeed a privilage to walk where those ancient people, survivors, camped. I walk and stand and dream of the hard life they lived, the thrill of the hunt and the triumph of success, the craftsmen chipping away at their stone tools, the women cooking the food, children running about. It must have been hard in the wind, the rain and the frost. And the blistering heat. It gets up to around 48 deg C here in the height of Summer.

  5. Caricature King
    June 2nd, 2011 | 8:56 pm

    my 4×4 is a toy – a Toyota RAV – not like the old days when i had a Hilux and explored the Kimberly – thems were the days….

  6. June 5th, 2011 | 7:24 pm

    Yeah! Know the feeling. We had a 1965 Cruiser for many years. That was a real man’s 4×4. No power steering or power breaks. Fight the brute all the way!

  7. Beth
    June 28th, 2011 | 9:21 am

    I enjoyed looking at the stones you photographed Laurie. Whenever I was on Pernatty I would imagine the Aboriginal people walking to and from there, setting up camp etc. Such history. They’ve left so much behind yet there are many white Australians who don’t want to know about them. Shame.

  8. June 28th, 2011 | 8:48 pm

    Hi Beth! Great to hear from you again!

    Yes, I stood on the dune for quite some time, Andamooka Waterhole off to the east, Willaroo Lagoon to the west, and all these stone flakes and tools around my feet.

    Taking in my surroundings, one vista at a time, I dreamed of the past with the bustle of many families making their living from the country surrounding the sand dune and Andamooka Waterhole.

    There’d be women cooking the tucker and pounding the wattle seed, men coming in with game, then sitting to teach their boys the craft of making weapons. Kids running and having fun. Lizards to catch.

    I guess there would have been wirlies of wattle scrub in the dune, hardly a lot of shelter in bad weather.

    A hard life all round, I’d reckon.

    I brought half a litre of Andamooka water home to bottle as a memento, along with a couple of small stones from up on the hill and lots of great memories of my visit to Andamooka Waterhole.

  9. nicholas
    February 14th, 2013 | 7:11 am

    hey grandad, awsome website!! ;)

  10. Dean Payne
    June 16th, 2015 | 11:07 am

    Great photos. I’m in the process of developing a cultural heritage field guide and wondering if it would be ok to incorporate some of your images and if so what the acknowledgement should look like.

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